I had an insight dream the other night that vividly showed me the evolution of who I've become since a small child. The fascinating thing about the realizations that arose is that who I've become started as a chain reaction to the fear I experienced growing up as the youngest in a sometimes explosive and chaotic alcoholic family system.
In cultivating the container for our practice and our lives, we focus on creating conditions, setting intentions and minding our attention. None of these are focused on the outcome of what arises, but rather on cultivating conditions for things we wish to arise. Like creating a quiet space for meditation so the settling of the mind can arise. This is much different than expectation, and when we understand this, our life unfolds much more harmoniously, resulting in greater fulfillment
Upon learning of the loss of a friend's baby boy just after birth over the holidays, I was reminded of my own loss of a fetus and the shortly thereafter arrival of Shyla in my life.
I had never really wanted children--was actually fearful of raising children, given my family upbringing. I didn't ever want to subject another being to the pain and suffering that would have been inevitable with the thought patterns and perspective I had prior to recovery. Painful co-dependence and dependency issues would have created a continuing cycle of abuse that I didn't want to pass on. (I couldn't articulate it like this then, but my life as it was was all I knew and I knew I didn't want to inflict that on anyone!)
But, I was in my 30's when I found myself pregnant and the maternal clock ticked loudly. The internal struggle, coupled with my then partner's reaction, led to this little soul being released from my womb.
A short time later, this same partner plucked Shyla out of a squirming box of puppies, brought her home without me knowing, and, well, the rest is history--15 years of an incredible journey.
What I haven't mentioned to anyone before now is that when Shyla and I bonded that first night she crawled to me crying, shivering and scared, waking me from a dream about her. Our heartbeats and hearts connected and I knew this was the soul that would have been my baby. Don't ask me how. I knew. The experience was so palpable and transformative, it stands out to this day.
This little soul had to reach me. We had to be together. She arrived in a form that was conducive to my life at the time after trying to reach me through my womb. Our succeeding time together was a testament to an unshakable and unbreakable bond that included each of us seeking out and reconnecting with each over many scenarios. (She once was lost in San Francisco for 72 hours!)
I trust this connection to transcend this lifetime many times over. When she first passed, I kept expecting her to come back to me in some form. I kept waiting for the instant recognition of someone I knew so deeply and intimately. I keep waiting for that reconnection and know that if not in this life, in some other. We have been connected through many lifetimes and will continue to do so eternally.
The pain of not having her by my side now is subsiding as time passes, but only because I feel her on an energetic level and know that we will be reunited in form at some point. I will know her in an instant, just as I'm sure that my friend would know her little boy--it's beyond question and reason.
I can't touch the loss of my friend. I can only hold space with her and her process as she discovers it for herself. I do know, from her revelations, that this little soul that left her and her family has touched them all so enormously and she accepts that he could never have lived outside her womb in his little body.
In all this loss, though, love continues to find a way into our lives and hearts. Just as water continues to find it's way to the ocean, cycling again and again. We just have to pay attention to whatever form it takes and cherish every precious moment, because the particular form's existence, like my friend's baby boy, can sometimes be ever so brief.
The other morning on the way home from harvesting at Jim’s farm, I was busy with my usual multitasking on Highway 29. A movement on the side of the road captured my eye and on a double take I saw a small fox-like animal just off the pavement lifting its head trying to get up. My early afternoon client had rescheduled, so I was not in an immediate hurry to get home, though i always have plenty of tasks to tend to.
As I pulled over I was reminded that not two weeks ago I had seen a small hawk laying in the middle of the road while on the way to a party. It, too, was trying to move out of the way. And just a few weeks prior to that, I came across a full-sized deer laying in the middle of Hwy 29, lifting its head up as though it were badly hurt.
With the coyote, as I jumped out of the car and grabbed a towel from the back storage area (which seems to be my habit when approaching wildlife), I approached the tiny critter real slow as I could tell it was trying to get up. I was concerned that I would startle it and it would dash out into the busy highway only to meet its demise. (Many a times I have tried to help a creature only to hasten its death!) I kept a distance away and stood still, talking slow and low, in the same language I used with Shyla, to try to assuage its fears and to let it know I wasn’t there to harm it.
I also started sending Reiki healing energy. Not really knowing what to do, as was the situation with the hawk which I quickly swooped up off the road as a motorcyclist readied to stomp it out of its misery, I just stood there near the coyote, sending Reiki and asking for guidance. With the hawk, I held it cradled in my arms on its back like a baby with my hand on its chest, sending Reiki, and walked off the road a ways into the forest--its little head turning back and forth, which i later learned was the sign of a head injury.
I stayed for the longest time with the hawk, thinking that it would pass in my arms, as it would seep out a little bit of blood every now and then. I tried very hard to determine what to do and not let the unbelievable experience of cradling a hawk like a baby get in the way of doing what was best for it. I eventually took it home and asked my good friend who’s a veterinarian and my neighbors, both healers, what to do.
Upon everyone's advice, I shuttled it off to Lakeport to Wasson Memorial Veterinary Clinic. (They are one of the few veterinary clinics to take wildlife.) It was a weekend and the doctor on call would not be seeing it until later that evening. I knew as soon as I left it in the seemingly cold, uncaring hands of the technician on duty that I wished I had continued to cradle it and keep it warm until it passed--which it eventually did that night.
With the coyote, though, I was only minutes away from the same hospital so, as the Caltrans workers who stopped stood by my side (unable to assist in any way except to be kind and loan me a pair of leather gloves), I slowly approached the four-legged with a blanket, its panting, skinny body weighing no more than five or six pounds.
The conversation with the workers included their concern of my creating a road hazard standing on the side of the road, as well as concern that something could happen with a reaction by the coyote that would propel me into the traffic. Safety was their concern.
It was at this time that I was first able to articulate what has been circulating in my mind from the time of seeing the first baby deer killed on Bottle Rock Road since moving to my new home on Cobb: that all those things--momentary road hazards, a deadline, or commitments--are really small in the bigger scheme of a hurt and hurting creature before us. As my practice deepens, I haven’t found anything in my life that I’m on my way to do as being more important than the life of another being in the moment. Increasingly that includes butterflies, bugs and the like. And slowing down to make sure I don’t accidentally hit one is well within my means.
When I was young, my mom and I were driving in a heavily trafficked area around a stop light. A dog was caught in traffic and looked like it would not make it to the side of the road. My natural instinct was to want to do something to help it and when I voiced this and my concern for the dog to my mother, she responded that there was nothing we could do. This helplessness was daunting and I didn’t want to believe her--and I guess I still don’t.
I have hit animals and understand this quandary. My heart sank the time a baby deer, still with spots and spindly legs, darted out on the highway so quickly I didn’t even see it before I hit it. I was able to move it out of the road and give it compassionate energy and attention as it took its final breaths. I was less compassionate, though, when the coyote that dashed across the dark highway in front of my van in Baja got sacrificed at the expense of my getting hurt. I get that accidents and choices like that happen--but just wonder if what we are on our way to do on the road is really so important that we can't slow down a bit?
I just learned this morning that the coyote pup went into seizures and they had to put it down--some three days after my hopeful rescue. Did I do the right thing? I don’t know. What do you think?
The inevitable passing of a living being is inescapable. The compassion we bring to the being and to our own experience, to me, is the significant and vital part. From butterfly to full grown deer, these are our companions on the road, literally and figuratively. How can we best meet them? From the personal to the global, we, in each moment, have a choice on how to answer this question.
My friends Denise Rushing and Loretta McCarthy are traveling across country on a tribute journey for Loretta’s brother John, who made the annual journey to, “to visit, assist and bring news to those who work tirelessly for Mother Earth.” (Visit http://www.permaculturesoul.com/p/tribute-journey.html to learn more.) This is deep companioning on the road in so many ways and speaks to a conscious way we can choose to honor our fellow beings.
These are just a few stories of companioning on the road. I wonder what situations like this are happening for others at this time? Please feel free to share them here with some fellow companions on the road of consciousness.
(P.S. The pictured coyote above is not one of the pup I rescued. Where once I would be sure to take photos, now, the experience itself and the compassion for the living being take precedence.)
JoAnn Saccato, MA is an author, mindfulness teacher, educator, and consultant in Northern California. She helps her clients and community discover many ways to create the conditions and apply simple tools to companion themselves on a sacred journey, bringing more groundedness, acceptance, clarity, joy, authenticity and values-based responses to life.